NCAA Skiing Championships
Thursday: Women’s 5K and men’s 10K freestyle cross-country races, Howelsen Hill. Women, 9 a.m., men, 10:30 a.m.
Friday: Men’s and women’s slaloms, Howelsen Hill. First run: women, 6:30 p.m.; men, 7:15 p.m. Second run: women, 9 p.m.; men, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: Women’s 15K and men’s 20K classical races, Howelsen Hill. Men, 9 a.m., women 11 a.m. Awards ceremony, 2 p.m.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With the University of Colorado’s disappointing first-day finish at the NCAA Skiing Championships on Wednesday, all eyes are on the Buffs’ Nordic skiers.
The six Nordic specialists — three men and three women — will race Thursday morning in the freestyle cross-country skiing events at Howelsen Hill, with the men completing a 10-kilometer course and the women skiing a 5K race.
The Buffs will look to junior Mads Stroem in particular to help close a nearly 60-point gap between CU, which finished fifth after the giant slalom events, and the championship’s early leader, Montana State University.
Stroem was the 2014 freestyle national champion as a freshman and won six races this winter, including the last four in a row.
Coming into the championship off that streak, coach Richard Rokos expects a top finish from Stroem.
He also has high hopes for freshman Petter Reistad, who finished second three times this season. Reistad finished in the top seven in each of his nine total races this year.
“(Stroem’s) been so consistent throughout the season that it’s hard to expect anything less than first place or top three,” Rokos said. “The same for Petter; they both are excellent skiers, they have demonstrated it over and over. Both are healthy. They have no issues. Both have very good immune systems, so they are not affected by those things too much.”
Stroem is confident, too.
Last year, on the day of the 20K classical cross-country race, he woke up with a sore throat and didn’t tell anyone until afterward. Even on a sick day, he finished second.
This year, he’s feeling healthy and, if all goes well, plans to bring home at least one more national title.
“I hope to win, of course. I think I’m good enough to win and I think my shape is good enough to win, but you never know,” Stroem said. “You need good skis and you need a good day and you also need some luck into it or you might be second. I’d like to be on the right side of those things.”
Senior Arnaud Du Pasquier rounds out CU’s men’s Nordic squad.
On the women’s side, CU is represented by sophomore Petra Hyncicova, sophomore Ane Johnsen and junior Jesse Knori. Rokos said he expects top 10 finishes — or something “in that neighborhood” — from all three women.
Though the Buffs head into Thursday’s races trailing in the points total, Rokos isn’t too concerned because the Nordic events are more predictable, he said.
“It’s a long ways to go,” he said. “Another three days. Alpine is obviously the least predictable. At this moment, we are putting lots of pressure and weight on the Nordic team but they are steadily performing, so as long as they ski the way they can — and the sport of Nordic skiing is far more predictable.”